Mar 08

TAMMY WYNETTE – “Stand By Your Man”

FT + Popular • 3,529 views

#370, 3rd May 1975

I only have a surface-skimming knowledge of country music, but it’s pretty obvious what’s great about it: songs about grown-up situations and emotions, with clear, well-turned lyrics, whose singers often have gorgeous, expressive voices – what’s to dislike? But stereotypes stick to the genre – particularly at an ocean’s distance: sentiment, traditionalism, religiosity, a willingness to be trite or didactic. These are big hurdles for a lot of listeners, though none of them is as true, as often as the people who utterly dismiss country might imagine. None of them are even a deal-breaker for me – something I like about country is that I can disagree with what’s in a song at the same time as I enjoy it.

Country is a near-total absence from British charts now: in the 1970s, though, there was a clear market for it and the big hits did extremely well – especially if, as in this case, they had year to build up demand before an eventual release. I didn’t know, coming to write this entry, that “Stand By Your Man” wasn’t a 1975 hit, and knowing that Wynette and George Jones divorced in the mid-70s I’d heard bitterness in its tears, and its lyrics that essentially present men as helpless, defective children. My Dad, who loves the song, used to chuckle over Wynette’s multiple real-life marriages, understanding that the pleasure in country lies partly in how it briefly, artfully paints a life and situation in a few minutes. Whether the singer lived the song didn’t seem to be the point.

I may enjoy country but ultimately I don’t share its sensibilities: the lachrymose wobbles and almost-cracks in the vocal do feel over-the-top to me, and the record can’t quite win freshness back from crushing over-familiarity. But the sardonic, wounded intensity of Wynette’s performance is a keeper whether it’s your first time hearing it or your thousandth.



1 2 3 All
  1. 51
    Erithian on 17 Mar 2008 #

    I do sympathise, MC, even if your choice of what stood out in the ’88 chart doesn’t necessarily match mine (I’m not sure anything did, frankly). Until they’re forced to play a given chart in full, they’re always going to pick and choose what suits a Sunday afternoon audience. Maybe when the whole station is taken over by Radcliffe and Maconie…

    And at a suitable point in the future I’ll have to share memories of the glory that was Mike Sweeney’s Piccadilly Radio show in the late 70s/early 80s, along with the occasional play for a Salford Jets track. A thread on Tammy Wynette is possibly not that suitable point – perhaps I’ll save it for Abba. (If you were there you’ll know why!)

  2. 52
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    My systems thinking for R2 weekend schedules:

    Get rid of huge otiose obstacle that is the Radio 2 Comedy Hour.

    Replace with POTP a la Capital Gold format – 2 hours, just one year, full chart and maybe different/better presenter.

    Broadcast at 1 pm on Saturday – will inherit Jonathan Ross’ audience; therefore more scope for more eclectic range of music.

    Perhaps move Maconie’s Saturday show to Sunday afternoons since it would fit in better with Johnnie Walker coming after it.

  3. 53
    Billy Smart on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Oh, you’ve got to keep Dale, though! I always find the occasional personal touches that refer back to his record-buying childhood, and DJing seventies youth slightly moving, and mercifully free of projected credibility: “Oooh! This is one of my favourites. At number seven, it’s Matt Monroe!”, etc.

    What could certainly be improved is his script, though. Sample annoyance: “‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ was the biggest-selling Motown single in Britain in the sixties. Amazing!” To which I find myself replying “Well, what’s amazing about that then? Something had to be!”

  4. 54
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Well yes but more often than not it’s just “good record,” “good single, that,” “good dance track” and Phil Swern’s statistics damned statistics (and frequently wrong statistics at that) and you can tell Dale’s sitting in a damp basement pre-taping it and he’s not really bothered. Does it really matter whether “Cross My Broken Heart” was the third of Sinitta’s nine Top 40 hits?

    One presenter who might work, if he’s still around – Paul Burnett.

    Or else keep Dale but hire me to write the scripts.

  5. 55
    mike on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Interesting to read people talking so thoughtfully about moving away from “following the charts”, without defaulting to the (to my mind) illusory “it all went rubbish!” defence. I like the Danny Baker quote about turning 26 – which happens in my case to be in 1988, in the week that some of us recently discussed at length on my blog. As it was the year of Bros & Kylie & Tiffany, and also the year of acid house and its attendant genres, I can well remember some of my contemporaries throwing up their hands in horror and deciding that Enough Was Enough.

    None of this explains why, at the ripe old age of 46, I still follow the charts, even if not to the same exacting degree that I did when I was 26. Some might say it was a case of arrested developement – but then, it’s not as if chart music makes up more than a fraction of my total listening. All I can say is that I still find developments in chart pop interesting, and that I have yet to be alienated by any of these developments (oh alright, nu-metal left me stone cold, but it was quick to pass).

    But then, since I was listening to music that was considered “too old” for me at the age of 12, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m listening to music that’s “too young” for me at 46. I absolutely always knew that this was going to happen, and I know it’s unusual, but then I’ve always resisted being shoe-horned into age/background-related demographics… don’t fence me in!

  6. 56
    mike on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Oh, Dale’s always had funny taste, dating back to his Radio Trent days (“Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins, anyone?), but I’ve always liked his enthusiasm, eg. when he played Irene Cara’s “Flashdance” on import 12″ and declared it the best single ever made!

  7. 57
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Yes but “Flashdance”! That’s like Peter Powell saying that Tron is the greatest film ever made “apart from other ones.”

  8. 58
    crag on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Like Mike, i too listened to music “too old” for me from the ages of approx 10-16 and bought no contemporary records at all but, oddly enough, still listened to the charts every tues on Gary Davis’s Bit in the Middle with great interest.

    The most distressing thing i’ve found about the current top 40 is that from my personal experience it seems to no longer hold much interest to young people.I would’nt be too suprised if I was chatting to someone in their mid-40s or even mid 30s about music and found that they were not up to speed with, say, Basshunter or Scouting for Girls. However in the job i recently left i was working w/ people aged mainly between 17 and 23 and none of them seemed to pay any attention to the charts whatsoever. Most of them seemed much more interested in the music of the 80s or 90s. Whenever i tried to turn conversation to new chart hits they seemed either disinterested or ignorant. It was very odd. Is this common or was i merely working with a bunch of deeply ungroovy people?

  9. 59
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    You’re lucky – in my workplace, no one’s that interested in music, full stop!

    Not being up to speed with Basshunter or Scouting For Girls, however, is forgivable.

  10. 60
    crag on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Totally agree- In fact Scouting for Girls have recently been awarded the honour being IMO THE WORST BAND IN THE WORLD EVER.
    If u happen to be reading this, guys- well done!
    (btw the band they overtook in this coveted position will thankfully not be bothering us here at Popular till we reach 1991..no spoilers, mind..)

  11. 61
    Billy Smart on 17 Mar 2008 #

    It’s funny. When I was a sixth former my advocacy of, say, The Sundays, The Pixies or My Bloody Valentine was a source of great derision from my peers, but is now a source of retrospective cool with the undergraduates, “interested in the music of the 80s or 90s”, that I teach. I think that I’d have prefered to have had the credibility at the time, though!

  12. 62
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Entirely predictable question: what were your sixth form peers actually into?

    (entirely uneducated guesses: Gn’R, Runrig, Deacon Blue)

  13. 63
    mike on 17 Mar 2008 #

    My 13 year old niece is a big Scouting For Girls fan, and was even on the phone last night trying to blag a place onto the guest list for their Nottingham show. (I’ve got more in common with her 9 year old sister, who I’m taking to see Girls Aloud.)

    When we were all teenagers together, my three step-siblings had next to zero interest in the singles charts, out-voting me every week on Top Of The Pops versus The Bionic Woman (or was it the Six Million Dollar Man, I can’t recall). It was an early indicator that people who maintain an active interest in current chart music have perhaps always been in the minority.

  14. 64
    Billy Smart on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Good question – Guns ‘n’ Roses, Eurythmics, Beverly Craven, Fine Young Cannibals, Lisa Stansfield, Deacon Blue. Runrig never made much of an impression in Eltham!

  15. 65
    Billy Smart on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Oh, and up ’til 1989 I was at a top public school in South London, where U2 were much bigger than anything else. Move a few miles down the road to London’s biggest comprehensive and nobody liked them.

  16. 66
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    I think we’ve found POTP‘s target demographic here!

  17. 67
    crag on 17 Mar 2008 #

    If only the young ‘uns i worked with who were “interested in the music of the 80s or 90s” were into Pixies, MBV etc.
    It was actually more like Ocean Color Scene, INXS and the Bluetones!

  18. 68
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Mar 2008 #

    This week’s definition of hell: “The Riverboat Song” on autorepeat forever and ever and ever.

  19. 69
    Rob M on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Ah, “The riverboat song”. For some reason, my band covered that in the late 90s, much to my chagrin, and I had to learn to play it (as lead guitarist), and hated every moment of rehearsing and playing it week after week. In a way, I was glad the band split up, just so I didn’t have to play it again.

  20. 70
    SteveM on 17 Mar 2008 #

    Good stuff on this thread – who says a little digression does a man harm?

    Getting a little back on topic tho, I just wish this hadn’t been the only #1 to feature Wynette.

  21. 71
    Caledonianne on 17 Mar 2008 #

    But it’s interesting what will unite people, musically. I work with two categories of people – members aged 37-50, but mostly in their mid-40s, and staff (26 – 32, apart from aged me).

    The senior statesman of the outfit read out from The Scotsman last week that Leonard Cohen is playing Edinburgh Castle. I immediately called my other half and began an “Edinburgh Castle or O2?” discussion. The 26 year old, immediately piped up – “Get me one!” (but he’s Canadian, so it could have been a ‘can’t miss the legendary compatriot’-type thing), and the 32-year old, said he wanted one, too. The bemused 50-year old immediately instructed the American interns to make sure nothing sharp was left lying around the office. Only for one of them to enquire “Who’s Leonard Cohen?”…

    In the end we opted for the O2. Edinburgh seats don’t seem to be on sale yet.

    Don’t know about ol’ Tammy but I’m sorely tempted by Dolly, same venue a couple of weeks earlier. If anyone had told me 20 years ago I’d be in the market for that one day, I’d have had a fit! Perhaps as you get older you just see your life turning into the narrative of a country song -”Something about motherhood this time; the song already had a truck”, as Harry Chapin said.

  22. 72
    Waldo on 18 Mar 2008 #

    Anne – Getting older may indeed see one’s life turning into the narrative of a country song. Waldo’s example would be when I suffered a touch of the old Chalfonts a couple of years ago, a clear acknowledgment to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”.

  23. 73
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Mar 2008 #

    Apropos Dolly, interesting titbit (ahem) on the radio last night lifted from a recent National Enquirer interview:

    “When I talk to a man, I can always tell what he’s thinking by where he is looking. See, if he is looking at my eyes, he is looking for intelligence. If he is looking at my mouth, well, he is looking for wit and wisdom. But if he is looking anywhere else except my chest he is looking for another man!”

    As Mr Maconie remarked (for it was he): “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

  24. 74
    Waldo on 18 Mar 2008 #

    Ah yes, but nowadays if you avert your eyes from Dolly’s chest and scan towards her knees, you are still looking at her chest. Thus you are not a poof.

  25. 75
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Mar 2008 #

    Today’s definition of hell: The Magic Numbers “performing” “Islands In The Stream” on that beyond terrible Guilty Pleasures show on ITV the other weekend.

  26. 76
    Dan R on 18 Mar 2008 #

    Although an alternative interpretation is offered by the wonderful No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun site. Maybe she’s saying that only a gay man in search of wisdom would turn to Dolly Parton.

  27. 77
    crag on 19 Mar 2008 #

    while we wait for Toms next entry (no hurry but i refer u to #36!)just to keep the chat going i was wondering if anyone has seen the top 20 best and worst Number 1s list in the current ish of Word magazine?I will avoid spoilers, however I noticed only one of Tom’s 10s so far makes into their top 20- Isrealites. V Pleased to see Cumberland Gap in there though- an amazing record which i only discovered thanks to Popular..

  28. 78
    Lena on 19 Mar 2008 #

    There’s a Guilty Pleasures tv show?!? What other songs were ‘performed’?

  29. 79
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Well, there was a one-off programme – it looked like a pilot – and it seems to have been received pretty unanimously as a unmitigated disaster, as most things presented by Fearne Cotton tend to be.

    And as usual, instead of absolving itself of all guilt and presenting itself as a straightforward variety show, the flow was interrupted/destroyed by a string of ITV rep reliable talking heads describing their own “guilty pleasures.”

    Not that there was much flow to begin with. The Feeling did Video Killed The Radio Star – a great and crucial record which stopped being a guilty pleasure around about the time Trevor Horn started producing Dollar. KT Tunstall slaughtered You’re The Voice by John Farnham, a song that wasn’t worth resuscitating in the first place. Craig David – oh, how the mighty have fallen – mumbled his way through If You Let Me Stay by Terence Trent D’Arby (huh? Guilty Pleasure? The NME touched the hem of his garment all through ’87! Part of the reason why I stopped reading it!). Amy MacMumble Donald (or Paolo Nutini at 16 rpm as I call her) did “Sweet Caroline” about two octaves too low. Sophie Ellis-Bextor did “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” reasonable service (but that has long since been rehabilitated! It was used as the intro music to the Pistols reunion gig at Finsbury Park in ’96 for heaven’s sake!).

    Two-thirds of Supergrass (so it was clearly pre-recorded some while back, when Mickey had his accident) went through “Beat It” quite well – but again, when the hell was this ever a guilty pleasure?

    Worst of all I have saved until last – Kelly Osbourne raping, slashing and burying one of the greatest number ones ever; anyone who considers it a guilty pleasure should be marched out blindfold into the nearest nine-lane carriageway and left to find their own way back to the service station. And I’m not going to say what it is until Popular gets there.

    The only thing that can be said in this programme’s favour is that it didn’t quite stoop to soliciting the views of

    Bob Mills

  30. 80
    mike on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Oh, it was just appalling! Sophie Ellis-Bextor recorded “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” for a B-side a few years ago and has performed it on tour, so she did OK (although I’d rather have had the Goldfrapp deconstruction from the Black Cherry days). The Feeling used to play “Video Killed The Radio Star” at European ski resorts when they were a covers band, and I saw them perform the song much better than that 18 months ago; it just looked tired, and thoughtlessly knocked out. Craig David was shockingly bad: clapped out, lost, and looking like he had aged 20 years. KT Tunstall managed “competent but dull”, but the woeful Amy McDonald couldn’t even make it that far. The Magic Numbers were an embarrassing mess. Supergrass as the Diamond Hoo Ha Men were actually quite good, and it was pleasing to see the confusion on the faces of the woo!-ing hen-nighters down the front.

    As for Kelly Osbourne, though… after that unforgiveable hatchet job, she should never work again. (Like we should be so lucky.) Why didn’t anybody SAY anything?

  31. 81
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 19 Mar 2008 #

    tom’s orgafun-learned suggestion abt this programme was that having let the contributors pick the GP, they then rotate them so said contributors have to play someone ELSE’S GP: with “and make it work” the underlying requirement

    TTD actually seems to me to come closest to the still-unvarnished conception of GP*, precisely bcz his critical (and commercial) star fell so precipitately — and was shaky enough in its ascendent that anyone saying “i have always loved him” is going to be placing themselves in a zone of stout self-justification from the off

    *unless of course you count actual real pleasure in the stylings of eg THE MAGIC NUMBERS or THE FEELING! —:0

  32. 82
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    I pitched the exact opposite idea to ITV1; these would have been my choices:

    The Feeling – United by Throbbing Gristle
    KT Tunstall – The Woe by Steve Lacy
    Craig David – Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse by Eugene McDaniels
    Magic Numbers – Violence Grows by the Fatal Microbes
    Supergrass – Thriller! by Pere Ubu
    Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Everything Merges With The Night by Eno (as a tango)
    Amy MacDonald – I Wanna Be An Astronaut by Ricky Wilde
    Kelly Osbourne – Wild Women With Steak Knives by Diamanda Galas

    I’ve yet to receive a reply.

  33. 83
    Mark G on 19 Mar 2008 #

    “I Am An Astronaut” by Ricky Wilde

    Indeliby imprinted, I’m afraid! “I yam an astronaut!”

  34. 84
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Indeed, and not a million miles from “I’m a neanderthal man” either. I must have been mixing it up with “I Wanna Go To A Disco” which was another of Ricky’s singles.

    Also, best B-side title ever: “Hertfordshire Rock.”

  35. 85
    Mark G on 19 Mar 2008 #

    And “Teen Wave” which wasn’t too bad, if a bit too much like “Let’s jump the broomstick” in places.

    I’m sure Rick(y) Wilde prays to the heavens and gives thanks that “I am an astronaut” was never a hit.

  36. 86
    Billy Smart on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Is it just wishful thinking on my part, or are the backing vocals on “I Wanna Go To A Disco” a juvenile Kim Wilde?

  37. 87
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Mar 2008 #

    Certainly can’t be ruled out!

    “Astronaut,” incidentally, was apparently a number one in Sweden.

  38. 88
    Lena on 19 Mar 2008 #

    I heard “I Am An Astronaut” on Dr. Demento!

  39. 89
    Erithian on 20 Mar 2008 #

    Harking back to Dolly Parton (#76), Simon Hoggart mentioned in his Grauniad column a while back that he’d had the seat next to Dolly on a plane once, and remarked that the famous chest looks so impressive partly because she’s the smallest adult woman he’d ever seen: her jeans would have fitted a 7-year-old. So you’re almost guaranteed an overhead view…

    I was surprised to hear “Stand By Your Man” on the Radio 5 breakfast show a couple of weeks ago. When the prospect of a referendum on the EU treaty was voted out by the commons, they remarked that Tammy had been number 1 when we did have a referendum in 1975. Maybe we all felt more European then as well as being country fans. (lights blue paper and stands well back)

  40. 90
    Billy Smart on 20 Mar 2008 #

    That’s the sort of discussion for which we need Robin Carmody…

  41. 91
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 20 Mar 2008 #

    haha i think i can guess his position! but yes…

  42. 92
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Mar 2008 #

    I will not have carmodization in this jungle!

  43. 93
    Lena on 20 Mar 2008 #

    Is the next song a ‘guilty pleasure’?

  44. 94
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Mar 2008 #

    The song in question hasn’t yet been “rehabilitated” – Judge Dale has played it but profusely apologised for doing so, even though he shouldn’t have done – but I’m looking forward immensely to the 400 or so posts it will engender… ;-)

  45. 95
    Waldo on 20 Mar 2008 #

    Dear God, one or two of you have really incurred the wrath of The Spoiler Bunny with recent comments. And let me tell you, The Spoiler Bunny does terrible things when he’s angry.

    Basically, you can’t keep your word. Keep your word…

  46. 96
    intothefireuk on 21 Mar 2008 #

    Now here’s a thing – one minute I’m chewing over the bones of Aznovoice’s ‘She’ the next ….I’ve fallen off the radar only to reappear unannounced towards the arse end of a Tammy Wynette thread ! I’ve missed almost a year of chart entries along the way. I may have some catching up to do.

    So Wynette, well after 95 comments there really isn’t much to add is there ? Yes I have to admit Country music is a bit of a black hole for me, at least it has been until fairly recently when through the miracle of illegal downloading I have chanced upon a fair few compilations – even managing to delve into the archives to trace it’s history a little. That said Tammy’s song is pretty numbing fayre. The pedestrian pace of the verses with the standard country bolt-on twangy geetars & lap steel doesn’t get the song off to good start although, thankfully it does liven up somewhat in the chorus. Not sure I would have understood the sentiments as a teenager and neither do I really agree with them now – but then I’m just a man.

  47. 97
    Chris Brown on 21 Mar 2008 #

    Possibly ironic digression: Snow Patrol did a cover version of ‘I Am An Astronaut’ for a Save The Children charity album.

  48. 98
    Tom on 2 Apr 2008 #

    Managed to get the picture, mark etc in at last.

  49. 99
    Billy Hicks on 11 Feb 2011 #

    A few years late here, but if Danny Baker’s correct that something wrong happens in music when you’re 26, I’m not looking forward to 2014. It’s going to need to make quite a shift though as I’m still mostly enjoying the stuff of today, even if the 80s and 90s are my first love.

    My guess – 2014 will be the peak of Simon Cowell mania, and the majority of number 1s will be his acts. That would definitely kill my chart-listening off.

  50. 100
    Lazarus on 27 Mar 2011 #

    Re # 70 – it’s not quite her only number one, she’ll feature on another just a few months before her untimely demise, but I’ll say no more as I hear the gnashing of rodent teeth … as for the old Guilty Pleasures, the 70s one-hit wonders are the best aren’t they? If only the acts on that TV show had attempted Sky High, Howzat, Angie Baby, Rock Me Gently or even Afternoon Delight. And a bit of Gilbert would have been welcome.

1 2 3 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page